A young Irish émigré in the 1950s (Saoirse Ronan) is just beginning to feel at home in America, with a good job, better prospects and romance with a local boy (Emory Cohen), when a death in the family draws her back to Ireland, where she begins to feel the nostalgic (and romantic) lure of the ould sod. Ronan delivers gloriously on the promise she showed as an adolescent in Atonement, playing a timid, almost hopeless young woman coming to full flower, paradoxically, as a stranger in a strange land. Expertly directed by John Crowley and adapted (equally well) by Nick Hornby from Colm Toibin's novel, this is one of the smallest, most intimate and best movies of the year, with an aching suspense that bigger, brasher movies can only dream of. As Ronan's sweet-faced suitor, Cohen gives a breakout performance. J.L.